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(Posted 11:30 a.m., Nov. 25)
Thousands brave high winds, cold temperature to take in Parade of Lights
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Santa waves to some of the thousands of people who lined St. Joseph Blvd. Saturday night to take in the 2012 Parade of Lights. Fired Sherwin/Photo


 

Oh, the weather outside was frightful, but the Parade of Lights was so delightful, let it blow, let it blow, let it blow. And blow it did, as the wind chill factor during last night's parade dipped below -10 degrees.

The cold did nothing to dampen the holiday spirit of the 100,000-plus people who lined the St. Joseph Blvd. parade route. In fact, a light dusting of snow added to the festive mood.

The parade itself featured 75 entries and more than 2,000 participants including two marching bands, five Frosties, three Grinches, six fire trucks, the Ghostbusters, a group of miniature dogs, and one Elvis.

Among the many floats was a good mix of entries from area schools, sports groups, churches, service clubs and local businesses.

This year's winner of the Jim Anderson Memorial Awaed and Grand Champions was the entry from Cairine Wilson Secondary School, built around the theme of "The Isle of the Misfit Toys"

It's the first time that a high school entry has won the top prize, which is all the more remarkable when you consider that the project was entirely student led owing to the work-to-rule campaign being caried out by the province's public board secondary school teachers.

"It's a real good news story," says Parade co-organizer Bob Rainboth. "For them to pull off Grand Champion without any help from the teachers is pretty amazing."

Coincidentally, this year's honouary parade marshall was Cairine grad and CJOH newscaster Kimothy Walher.

But the man everyone wanted to see was St. Nick and the jolly old elf didn't disappoint. He was resplendent in his red suit and white beard as he waved to the crowd from atop his red sleigh.

Thanks to a microphone and sound systen, the crowd could hear Santa before they could actually see him. But as soon as the youngsters caught sight of him, their eyes immediately lit up and their smiles outshone the thousands of lights that adorned the brightly lit floats.

Chapel Hill resident Lisa Parent brought her two children, Brianna. 9, and Vincent, 7, to the parade for the first time. She only moved to the area from New Brunswick last summer.

"We didn't have anything like this in Gagetown," said Parent who is originally from Ottawa. "I remember going to the Santa Claus parade downtown when I was a kid. So when I saw the poster for the Parade of Lights I just had to bring the kids."

While Brianna loved all the lights and the animals, Vincent had a clear bias toward one float in particular.

"Santra!" yelled the seven-year-old when asked which float was his favourite, "Because he brings me toys."

The large turnout will go a long way to help local firefighters make this year’s
holiday season a little brighter for underprivileged children in the community.

As the floats went by, firefighters collected toys and passed along boots as parade-goers filled them with loonies, toonies and the odd $5 and $10 bill.

Parade organizers will be delivering the toys to the Eastern Ottawa Community Resource Centre next week, while the money will be put into the Fire Fighter’s Help Santa Toy Fund and used to buy more toys.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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